Does Antibiotic Resistance Move Through the Environment?

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the December 2018 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.


Recent columns have talked about antibiotic use in Canadian cow-calf and feedlot operations. Contrary to common misconceptions, antibiotic resistant bacteria are very unlikely to transfer from cattle to beef, evade food safety interventions in the processing plant, survive cooking, and cause an antibiotic resistant infection in a person. But can antibiotic resistant bacteria be transmitted from cattle, through feedlot manure and runoff, across soil, through wetlands, streams and rivers, and reach humans through the environment?

A Beef Science Cluster study led by Dr. Rahat Zaheer and Tim McAllister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (with collaborators from the Public Health Agency of Canada, the University of Calgary’s faculties of medicine and veterinary medicine, University of Guelph, Alberta Agriculture and Feedlot Health Management Services) examined this question.

What they did: This research focused on bacteria called enterococci that can cause infections in humans (e.g. urinary tract, liver and bile duct, heart, surgery wound, and bloodstream infections). Most enterococcal infections can be effectively treated with macrolide antibiotics. This is important because macrolides (products like Draxxin, Zuprevo, Micotil, Tylan, Zactran, etc.) are commonly used in both beef production and human medicine.

Over a two-year period, this team collected samples from feedlots (pen floor fecal samples, collection ponds, stockpiled and composted manure), agricultural soils, wetlands, streams, municipal sewage, packing plants, retail meats and human patients. Advanced lab testing was used to identify the specific types of enterococci and antibiotic resistance patterns in the samples from each location.

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New video: What beef producers need to know about environmental footprint



More than most livestock, beef cattle production takes place in the natural environment.

Those who live in rural areas and spend most of their time outdoors considering Mother Nature and managing their livestock and land as best they can understand that it’s common sense to protect the health of the land and water for themselves and their neighbours.

When enjoying peaceful moments watching cattle and wildlife on pasture, smelling rain or seeing plants change throughout the seasons, it’s difficult to understand why some people think that Canadian beef production is damaging the environment.

As a beef producer, what do you need to know about the environmental footprint of Canadian beef production? Continue reading

Take in the BCRC Presentation August 17th in Calgary


beef extension presentation
Every time a beef producer in Canada markets an animal, he or she invests in research – through a portion of the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-off. Those producer dollars help fund scientific studies and innovative developments that are advancing Canadian beef production and impacting farms and ranches across the country.

What does that mean …for you, your herd and your industry?

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) is excited to invite you to an upcoming presentation to get a clearer picture of beef research in Canada.

Join us Thursday, August 17 at the BMO Centre in Calgary, Alberta. The BCRC presentation will be held in the Palomino Room A-C from 1:30 – 4:30pm.

You’ll hear recent examples of progress made, discuss the objectives to be tackled next, meet the individuals leading the way, and take home new ideas to help keep your operation ahead of the herd. Top researchers will be in attendance to discuss Continue reading

Questioning the beef industry’s water use

April 22nd is Earth Day. Earth Day is recognized globally by people from all walks of life as a way to foster environmental respect and celebrate conservation.


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Cattle producers across Canada chose to make their living as stewards of the land and certainly appreciate and depend on a healthy environment.  Earth Day is an excellent time for all of us in the industry to celebrate environmental achievements, and cultivate discussion about further advancement.

Let’s ask questions, seek answers and talk about how we can make continual improvements related to greenhouse gas and manure management, carbon sequestration, biodiversity, nutrient cycling and more.

Water conservation is a hot topic. As concerns rise about depletion of water resources both locally and globally, livestock production and other agriculture sectors are often criticized for water use.

What can the Canadian beef industry do to conserve water?

First we need to Continue reading

Water Fight

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.


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Imagine a scene from an old spaghetti western, where two ranches are battling for control over the only waterhole around. The hired guns squint at each other from behind the sagebrush, waiting for the chance to unleash a hail of bullets at their foe, until the Texas Rangers ride in to restore peace.

Just replace ranches with “delegates”, hired guns with “scientists”, sagebrush with “laptops”, bullets with “research papers”, and Texas Ranger with “Canadians”, and a very similar scenario recently took place at the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Livestock Environment Assessment and Performance (LEAP) partnership meetings in Rome. But the dispute was over water, and the stakes are very high for the beef industry. Continue reading

What is the environmental footprint of beef production? Webinar November 28

Update: Missed the webinar? Find the recording and check for future webinars on our Webinars page: http://www.beefresearch.ca/resources/webinars.cfm

A recent study found that over the last 30 years, the Canadian beef industry has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 15% per kg of beef produced. Join this webinar to learn more about this good news story, the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, and what we as beef producers can do to continually increase efficiencies.

When


Monday, November 28, at 7:00 pm MT

  • 6:00pm in BC
  • 7:00pm in AB
  • 8:00pm in SK and MB
  • 9:00pm in ON and QC
  • 10:00pm in NS, NB and PEI 

Interested but aren’t available that evening?
Register anyway! This webinar will be recorded and posted online at a later date. All registrants will receive a link to the recording and additional learning resources. By attending the live event, you’ll have the opportunity to interact and ask questions too.

Register now

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Find and register for more BCRC webinars here.

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Dr. Tim McAllister receives the 2016 Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research and Innovation

NEWS RELEASE

Calgary, AB – Respected nationally and internationally for his work on antimicrobial resistance, beef cattle nutrition, silage science, greenhouse gas emissions, E. coli O157:H7 and prion science, Dr. Tim McAllister was formally recognized tonight by the Canadian beef industry.

2016 Outstanding Researcher Award


L to R: Beef Cattle Research Council science director Reynold Bergen, Tim McAllister, council chair and manager of Namaka Farms Ltd, Bryan Thiessen, and Darren Bevans, a BCRC council member and general manager of Deseret Ranches of Alberta.

Presented with the 2016 Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research and Innovation at the inaugural Canadian Beef Industry Conference, he was honored by hundreds of producers and industry stakeholders, including many past and present colleagues and students.

Dr. McAllister is a Principal Research Scientist at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Lethbridge Research and Development Centre. He also holds adjunct appointments at six universities in Canada, as well as universities in China and Ghana. He has made phenomenal contributions to advancements in the competitiveness and sustainability of the Canadian beef industry through his passion and dedication to progressive science, and exceptional collaboration, leadership and communication with industry, as well as governments around the world.

His research is helping beef producers in Canada remain as Continue reading

Our Environmental Hoofprint is Shrinking, but our Reach is Growing

Early this year, the BCRC Blog highlighted a study titled “Greenhouse gas emissions of Canadian beef production in 1981 as compared with 2011” that documented results of an ongoing Beef Science Cluster project. This paper documented how Canada’s beef industry was able to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas generated in producing one kilogram of Canadian beef dropped by 15 per cent between 1981 and 2011.
Raise your beef IQ at BeefResearch.ca
This reduction was largely the result of ongoing improvements in production and feed efficiencies, crop yields and management strategies. These, in turn, can be very directly traced back to research and innovation.

This story quickly became the subject of over 50 agricultural and popular press interviews and articles in Canada in the first few weeks following its release. The research team also presented these results at over a dozen producer meetings in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.

We’ve recently learned that this research is also  Continue reading

The Environmental Hoofprint of Canada’s Beef Industry

Producing beef with lower GHG emissions and using fewer resources

Over the years, Canada’s beef industry has invested a lot of time and resources in, and reaped considerable economic benefits, from improvements in productivity and efficiency. With higher forage and feed crop yields, less land needs to be bought, leased or rented to produce the same number of calves or the same amount of beef. Similarly, improved feed conversions mean that less forage is needed to winter the cow herd or less feed grain is needed to grow a pound of beef.


Raise your beef IQ at BeefResearch.ca

These improvements in productivity and efficiency have also produced environmental benefits. To produce high yields, forages need an extensive root system that promotes healthy soil, healthy soil microbes, improves structure, reduces soil losses due to wind and water erosion, and builds up soil organic matter (also known as carbon sequestration). Better feed conversion efficiencies are accompanied by reductions in methane and manure production.

While the beef industry was pursuing business-focused improvements in productivity and efficiency, a lot of farm kids moved to town, and raised their families in urban settings that rarely (if ever) come in contact with agriculture. This knowledge gap about how beef is produced has provided opportunities for the beef industry’s opponents to undermine our environmental reputation. Our industry is particularly maligned for producing greenhouse gases linked to climate change.

Practically every living organism produces greenhouse gases, even plants, but cattle produce more than other livestock because rumen bacteria produce methane as they digest feed. Additional greenhouse gases come from manure (methane and nitrous oxide) and fossil fuel use (carbon dioxide). However, like the Continue reading

Blame it on the Rain

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the October 26, 2015 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.


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This summer has seen unusual rainfall patterns, low river levels and drought in large parts of Western Canada and the Western States. Some people blame water shortages on the beef industry and are ready to answer the question “how much water does beef production use?” Unfortunately, these answers are often wrong, highly misleading and based on “how big a number will people possibly swallow?”

One common water use figure comes from a 2012 paper by Mekkonen and Hoekstra (“A Global Assessment of the Water Footprint of Farm Animal Products”, Ecosystems 15:401-415). These researchers reported that it takes 15,415 liters to produce one kilogram of beef. Few people look beyond that number, but it’s worth understanding the shallow science behind that calculation.

They divided water into three categories. “Blue water” is used to water cattle, irrigate pastures, forage or feed crops, process Continue reading